Working Time Regulations and the Water Industry

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2016 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
27 February 2016

Conference notes that Working Time Regulations stipulate that workers must have: At least a twenty minute break if they work more than six hours a day; At least eleven hours rest between working days, and; at least an uninterrupted twenty four hour rest without any work each week or an uninterrupted forty eight hours without any work each fortnight.

Over the past year UNISON water industry branches have reported an increase in the number of members being pressurised to work without these minimum rest periods. Long term reductions in staff numbers and the fragmentation of the workforce means that many members have little choice but to work long hours with little opportunity for rest. This has long term implications for the individuals concerned and the water industry itself. It is well established that the stress and strain of working long hours can shorten working lives and damage the health of workers.

In addition, workers who are tired from over-work are less able to deliver the high standards of service which are demanded of them. Office-based and operational site-based workers need to be provided with adequate rest areas and kitchen facilities, so they can actually take a break away from their working zone. For example, Control Centre staff who work night shifts (when normal on-site facilities may be unavailable) are likely need their own breakout area (with fridge-freezer, kettle, microwave, washing up facilities, etc).

Conference believes that decisive action needs to be taken to deal with this problem. Conference calls on the WET Executive to:

1. Distribute guidance on rest periods and the working time regulations to all WET Branches

2. Raise the issue of working time with the water industry via the new strategic consultative forum which OFWAT have instructed Water UK to convene with the trade unions.

3. Raise awareness of UNISON WET members, particularly those working in the water industry, about their rights to rest breaks under working time regulations